5 Best Practices in Emergency Alerting at Universities/Colleges

It seems that campus shootings and emergencies continue to occur. The US govt has mandated that all educational institutions including schools, colleges and universities put in place emergency notification procedures to avoid such tragedies as Virginia Tech, and Illinois.  Here are 5 rules of thumb to consider as you are implementing a mass emergency notification plan for your campus. This blog is re-visited from one I wrote 5 years ago:

#1 Have an Emergency Plan & Team – Every campus typically has a multi-disciplinary team responsible for the first notifications in emergencies to the campus population and reaching first responders (police, EMS, fire, etc.). This team must put together a plan for emergencies such as fire in a lab or to deal with an active shooter or other threat. This plan must be reviewed and owned by the administration of the academic institution (be it Principal, President, etc.), the students, the faculty and operations personnel.

#2 Leverage Existing Infrastructure at the College / University – WiFi / Email / Voice – Campuses have WiFi networks, Email and Voice networks. These can be leveraged to deliver emergency alerts to the campus population in the first few minutes of an emergency. These will likely save people’s lives.

#3 Have multiple Emergency Alerting Pathways – WiFi / Email / SMS/ Voice / Pop-ups / Twitter/ Panic Buttons/  etc. – As per practice #2 – campuses spend millions of dollars on infrastructure including access control, cameras, critical and emergency notification systems. Many vendors will work with existing networks and all possible alerting pathways should be leveraged.

#4 Run through Emergency Exercises to Ensure Campus Population is Aware of Plan – It is difficult to have a plan that unpracticed. In an effort to avoid disruption to student and faculty, many campuses do not run drills. This is a mistake as practice makes perfect. Every term should include a drill of the emergency notification system of the campus.

#5 Review Emergency Plan with local Emergency Forces – Police / EMS / Fire – Finally, the first responders in an emergency will likely be police, EMS and fire personnel that must work with campus security. It is important that they be aware of the campus plan in case of an emergency and any vital early information that they may need to mitigate the risk to students and faculty be collected through the emergency team.

… Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile.

10 Enterprise Requirements for Emergency Preparedness – Revisited: #4 All Communications Layers

Any organization will have a number of communications methods with its employees. Some carry their mobile phone everywhere. Others typically work at a desk communicating through email or on the web. Others will move around the organization. Some organizations such as those serving the public in healthcare or government will have visitors and waiting rooms. Most of these waiting rooms have some sort of overhead display to keep people occupied while they wait.  Many organizations have public announcement systems that they can announce over.  The only thing we can predict is that we will not know what end users are typically doing in an emergency or critical situation. This is why it is essential to alert on all layers during critical and emergency events. It is also key to select alert/response systems that support 2-way communications. Systems such as the Amika Mobility Server will support any number of communication layers including getting out to social networks for organizations to control the messaging about their alerts. See www.amikamobile.com under AMS  products. I wrote this blog originally on September, 28th, 2012 as a http://blog.amikamobile.com/?p=59” blog and have refined it today.    …Sue Abu-Hakima

10 Enterprise Requirements for Emergency Preparedness – Revisited: #3 Physical Security System Integrations

Any enterprise will have a number of physical security systems layers. The most basic of these is typically an alarm system to protect the premises. The alarm may combine door contacts as well as motion sensors that are monitored remotely. Layered on top of this are camera systems that monitor various areas  – outside cameras, inside cameras near key entrances and exits. Another layer would be the fire system where smoke or fire trigger alarms. Another layer would be access control systems which require employee cards and facility card readers – most often at the main, side or back entrances. Indeed, in the Hospitality Sector, most guest rooms will have card readers instead of keys. A challenge for the enterprise is how to record and manage all these disparate sensor events? It becomes in some ways similar to the monitoring of systems in complex environments like aircrafts. How often do you collect event information? Do you collect continuously or only when critical events are triggered – someone moves in front of the camera at 3 am when the facility is supposed to be vacant? Or someone uses an access card that is on a watch list? Is there shift work with people on premise at odd hours?  Are there enterprise risks that need more physical security and alerting – are there panic button requirements? Are there lockdown requirements? Depending on the business the enterprise is in, careful planning has to go into both the layers of physical security that are required as well as the critical alerts and response communications that is required when alerts trigger. See www.amikamobile.com under AMS products. I wrote this blog originally on June 8th, 2012 as a  http://blog.amikamobile.com/?p=58” blog and have refined it today. ..Sue Abu-Hakima

10 Enterprise Requirements for Emergency Preparedness – Revisited: #2 ANY network

An enterprise typically has a myriad of networks including: a LAN for its desktops and servers;  a WiFi network for its users to wander the facilities with laptops, ePads and Smartphones that sometimes browse WiFi; its VoIP network that is linked to some carrier network for inbound/outbound calling; a Public Address (PA) System for announcements; a Paging network; an email system; social networks like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn; camera monitoring networks; access control systems; fire monitoring systems; etc. It is thus no surprise that an organizational critical and emergency system cannot assume that all users can only be reached through SMS, email or Voice.  As such, in an emergency, First Responders agree that the enterprise needs to leverage all its networks to deliver critical and emergency alerts to targeted groups or en masse paying special attention to all the personal mobile devices people are using today. See www.amikamobile.com under AMS products.  I wrote a version of this http://blog.amikamobile.com Amika Mobile blog entry in 2012 and it essentially still applies today. If anything, we have more social networks to connect on and people are relying even more on their mobile devices as their primary communication tools.   ..Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

10 Enterprise Requirements for Emergency Preparedness – Revisited: #1 ANY device

As more and more enterprise users bring their own devices to work,

Mon Jul 07 16:39:58 EDT 2014

referred to as  BYOD (according to  Gartner). BYOD has to be part of the set of devices that Critical & Emergency Notification Systems Alert to.  At any one time, a user in the enterprise can be addressed by anywhere from 3 to 6 devices – desktop, desk phone, business mobile phone as well as digital tablet, laptop and possibly a second personal mobile phone. As such, the emergency alerting system needs to address all these user identities. Typically, the mobile devices are addressed by hard-coding email addresses and phone numbers in contacts databases. This is certainly not good enough as users cannot be tethered to their desks. This is why auto-discovery of user devices is essential for a practical emergency alerting system.   See www.amikamobile.com under AMS products.  I wrote this http://blog.amikamobile.com/?m=201205” blog originally May 4th, 2012 and have made essentially no modifications as this all still applies besides referring the reader to the  AMS.  ..Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

Workplace Violence – Top 6 actions to take – #6 Recovery – taking back the workplace

Recovery of the workplace after an incident is by no means a simple process. Depending on how violent the incident is – from a minor physical injury such as a slap, a punch or a kick to a major one such as someone being stabbed, shot or even killed, there will have to be a set of policies and procedures for the workplace and teams at work to heal. Five things immediately come to mind to help heal as supported by  OSHA: Time off – as long as they need – some employees will recover and some will not and will need to go on extended leave; Change of offices may be needed depending on the violence of the act, to another  town, city, or even state; Recognition of the terrible incident with a memorial or plaque or garden to honor any loss of life; Allowing people to grieve  since people will react differently; Allowing people to heal and being sensitive to their process; Re-educating people on the code of conduct in the workplace and learning to recognize individuals and situations that will boil over before it is too late. The length of time to recover will be dependent on the individuals and their ability to cope. It is essential to have policies and procedures in place to deal with workplace violence which is sadly becoming so prevalent today.  ….Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

Workplace Violence – Top 6 actions to take – #5 Reporting

Reporting workplace violence can take many forms. According to OSHA, a zero tolerance policy that is clearly communicated to employees is best. Minor workplace incidents need to be observed and reported. A single workplace incident of verbal abuse or bullying (goading and embarrassing a fellow employee) may occur regularly before it escalates or boils over to a major act of physical violence. This is why all incidents should be reported to a manager or team member as soon as they occur. A zero tolerance policy also means that someone will be escorted out by security if they harass or bully anyone in the workplace, which in itself should help as a deterrent to avoid major escalation. If a major incident occurs such as assault, including sexual or physical harassment, then it should be immediately reported to the authorities following the policies and procedures of the workplace, so that the individual may be removed from the workplace and charged by authorities.  The policies and procedures in the workplace must include protocols if a major act of violence takes place. Sometimes, these policies should require a lockdown in combination with 911 calls to police, if a shooting or stabbing is occurring. Sometimes, these policies require panic alarms (from those on employee mobiles or desktops or from wall-mounted ones) that alert security teams in the building to the location of the employees under threat, and these teams will determine when to call 911. Very often in the workplace, employees do not want to report harassing incidents or assaults as they are embarrassed or concerned about retaliation. It is essential to ensure employees feel safe in reporting such incidents to someone on their team or to their managers. It is also very important that the managers or team members take these reported incidents seriously, and report them up the chain so that they may be addressed and tracked, to ensure that smaller incidents do not result in a major violent act.  ….Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

Workplace Violence – Top 6 actions to take – #4 How Technology Helps

Many recent events at the workplace have escalated into violence with knives and shootings. In the US, every year according to OSHA  there are a staggering 2  Million incidents reported. Recently, in  Toronto CBC reported that  an employee was being fired when he then attacked his colleagues and stabbed 4 of them within minutes. Similarly, in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, a man shot 4 of his colleagues leaving 2 dead and 2 critical. It is essential for security officers in the workplace to think about issues in advance and bring the C-suite in to help ensure that there are technology capabilities in the workplace to help limit the violence. Three main technology areas come to mind: Panic buttons, Lockdown technology and critical and emergency communication software,  Panic buttons can be on mobile phones for employees or those at risk, for front office staff employers can consider desktop, wall-mounted, or even foot pedal panic buttons. Panic buttons can also be linked to technology that triggers lockdowns of all doors and windows in critical or emergency situations. Finally, mass communication capabilities quickly alert employees on all communication layers and keeps them informed with security team 2-way communications as the situation is diffused and control is taken back from the attacker(s).    …Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

Workplace Violence – Top 6 actions to take – #3 Healthy Workplace

Through my experience leading teams for decades and according to the American Psychological Association (APA), there are 5 key factors in ensuring a healthy workplace for employees. These factors help mitigate the risk of workplace violence. First, empower employees to control their workplace environment and careers with open dialogue and take their suggestions for improving the workplace. Second, encourage a healthy work-to-life balance with flex hours, vacations, and  leeway if they need to care for loved ones. Third, facilitate career development and goal setting with access to continued education and tuition reimbursement.  Fourth, encourage a healthy and safe workplace by encouraging employees to maintain a good fitness level possibly through workplace team sports and  help them work through stress if possible and refer them to professional medical or counseling if their personal situations warrant.  Finally, employees should be recognized for outstanding performance and celebrations of success should be encouraged.   … Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

Workplace Violence – Top 6 actions to take – #2 Education

A key aspect to reducing workplace violence is education. There are many resources to look at on the web including some comprehensive ones from the Office of the Safety and Health Administration or OSHA. There are some rules of thumb in terms of making employees aware of potential violence and to prevent escalation. Employees need to be aware of any form of harassment and be provided with confidential methods to report it. Make sure everyone knows what the expected code of conduct or workplace behavior should be – role playing with a safe external third party running it to ensure people can recognize harassment may be worthwhile. Make sure work teams get along and differences are accepted. Be ready to get HR or an external consultant involved if any behaviors seem off or begin to escalate. If an employee needs to be removed, ensure adequate security is provided to avoid recent incidents like the workplace shootings or stabbings in Toronto and elsewhere.  …Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO

Workplace Violence – Top 6 actions to take – #1 Vigilance

Workplace violence from bullying is very real with nearly 50% of US employees experiencing or observing some form of bullying in their careers. According to the Canadian Initiative on Workplace Violence the violence can take on any form of harassment be it verbal or physical. Every state in the US and every province in Canada has laws that are intended to protect employees from workplace violence and it is the fiduciary responsibility of the employer to ensure their employees are safe. It is very important to educate employees on what workplace violence and harassment are and to keep them vigilant so that it does not escalate. Many resources on-line exist today that can help educate employees on this. There are also a number of consultants that can help educate employees on what to look for to avoid escalation to very violent acts. …Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile.

Remembering the 14 Women Shot at École Polytechnique in Montreal

Today is a day of remembrance for 14 women who lost their lives in Canada’s worst school shooting 24 years ago on Dec 6, 1989. It is a day when the young engineering women students were separated from their colleagues and shot because of their gender. Many of their young engineering male colleagues who were ordered out of the classroom by the gunman had to endure the guilt of having lived. One of the young men sadly committed suicide because of his guilt and his parents subsequently committed suicide as they could not live without him according to CBC. Many others have dedicated their lives since that sad day to ending violence against women. We salute you and we do not forget and we will continue to work hard to make our world and schools a safer place. ….Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile.

Remembering Newtown and all Innocent Shooting Victims

As we draw to the close of November and American thanksgiving, we are nearing the sad anniversary date of Dec 14, 2012 where 26 innocents were shot for no apparent reason other than that of a seemingly very disturbed and angry young man as per the recent editorial in the  LA times. As we respect the request of the community to quietly remember those innocents, let us not forget the 9,900 that have also perished in shootings according to the  Huffington Post. This Dec 14th at 9:35 am, we will all quietly remember and continue in our resolve to make the innocents safer as we continue to focus on keeping others out of harm’s way. …Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile.

10 Means to help better Secure our Schools – #10 Leverage Technology

The 10th and final means to ensure better school safety is to leverage technology where you can and make it fit into your emergency planning. As more and more students and faculty are walking around with mobile phones, you have the perfect mechanism to help keep them in the loop in critical situations. There are a myriad of technologies to choose from so it is important to look at your needs at the school to minimize your risks. If you have WiFi deployed, you can leverage that as all Smartphones today are deployed with WiFi. You can also leverage SMS, Email and Callouts to the phones. For the computers, laptops, ePads and electronic blackboards – you can leverage Pop-ups. You can also leverage access control systems to trigger lockdowns in the school when an active shooter is detected. Today’s world is very technologically rich in comparison to even 5 years ago – as such, we would likely save many lives if we leverage the technology properly. …. Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile www.amikamobile.com

10 Means to help better Secure our Schools – #9 Always Have an Emergency Plan & Review Quarterly

A number of templates are available for Emergency Plans by searching the web and contacting organizations like DHS  which dedicates resources and an entire area on their web site to School Safety. There are some basic rules of thumb when formulating emergency plans: 1) consult with your school district or board – there is likely a process and a template for a plan for your are; 2) put together a committee that would represent the leadership of the school, the security team at the school, the community, and  first responders; 3) once you have formulated a plan, make sure you review it quarterly and every time there is an incident, to ensure that the plan meets your school’s needs and strengthen it where you can; 4) make sure your emergency plan has very clear evacuation paths in the case of emergencies and ensure that these are posted in all areas (classrooms, hallways, stairwells, etc.), 5) ensure your emergency plan has room to contact the parents and community nearby to make sure everyone is on the same page; 6) publicize your plan as a living document and disseminate it to those you believe should be aware of it and accept feedback as there may be things you missed. …. Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile www.amikamobile.com

10 Means to help better Secure our Schools – #8 Annual Security Audits

As schools are heading out for the summer, it is a good idea to review school safety and carry out an audit of how safe the school is. There are a number of resources on the web such as this list from the Virginia School District and modified by the NY State Police. In the audit there are a number of areas to examine such as the exterior of the school and the play areas. Also important are the various zones such as the various entrances, the drop-off zones, etc. Another key area is the interior of the school and how all the windows and doors close and shut and those in the high risk areas (such as front office, main floor windows and doors, basement windows, back doors,  etc.) can be secured or locked in an emergency. Another important area is the two-way communication between staff, the office and first responders for emergencies such as fires or attacks. Key is also alerting the student population and allowing 2-way communication with those in need as well as parents and the community. In addition, policies and procedures should be reviewed annually to ensure that they can be met and improved on based on the previous year. Finally, on-premise personnel and their training in life safety and security can be audited to ensure that the immediate response as the emergency arises before first responders get there is in line with the situation. … Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO,  Amika Mobile

10 Means to help better Secure our Schools – #7 2-way Communications on Maximum # Pathways

According to research reports, nearly 80% of kids today carry a mobile phone. Having such a device may not have always been a great idea for schools, however, the reality of today is that most parents are insisting that their kids have a phone and be allowed to use it in an emergency. As such, if an emergency does happen in a school, there is a lot more than just the fire alarm and PA system to rely on. Even the WEA  alerts from FEMA can be received in a weather-emergency affected area by enabled mobile phones. Some kids also carry a laptop or an ePad and many classrooms are equipped with computers and electronic blackboards. In a critical situation or emergency, all these devices can be alerted from 1 console with an alert that would Pop-up the information on the phones, computers, laptops, TV monitors in common areas, deliver text messages to the mobile phones, announce over the PA, etc. Amika Mobile has taken the approach to ensure that any and all devices be they wired or wireless be alerted in a true emergency by supporting 18 layers for those alerts. …Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

10 Means to help better Secure our Schools – #6 Implement Lock Mechanisms & Practice Lockdowns

A key mechanism that can also be effective with isolation zones is locking down a room or set of rooms within an area that can be accessed from a hallway. This is important not only for schools but for any facility where someone from the public is likely to walk into the facility with a gun for whatever reason. There are many lockdown mechanisms on the market today for schools, hospitals, etc. As zones are separated to secure an area, the locks in the areas where people can be protected should be activated automatically to safeguard students or others in those rooms. Lockdowns need to be regularly practiced in all academic institutions. At the moment, they are regularly practiced in many schools (not all) but should be mandatory for all Universities and Colleges as well.  …Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile.

10 Means to help better Secure our Schools – #5 Isolate Zones for Defense

As shootings continue across the globe and as we mark the anniversaries of these tragic events, it is important to think about better protecting the public as well as the kids who may suddenly find themselves in the crossfire. An important consideration is to ensure that there are zones isolation mechanisms to protect against shootings. This implies that in a school, the front area should be completely isolatable from the various classrooms. In another recent shooting at a daycare in Quebec, the shooter walked into the front office, shot at a target then walked into an adjacent classroom and shot an innocent teacher who was protecting the students. Had the front office been isolated from the classrooms, that teacher would still be alive today.  ….Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

We Salute You Boston for Your Resilience

Tue Apr 16 16:53:11 EDT 2013

As we ponder the  tragedy at the Boston Marathon that includes loss of life and battlefield-type injuries with shrapnel at Copley Square, we must salute a city and its people known for their resilience, strength and acts of kindness towards each other. We salute you Boston and send our thoughts and prayers to all those affected by the tragedy knowing that you will fight through this battle as you have many throughout history. …Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile.

10 Means to help better Secure our Schools – #4 Secure Main Access to Facility

Fri Apr 05 13:26:17 EDT 2013

An intruder in a school will typically enter through the main doors and find a place to hide – such as in the basement, a closet or even a bathroom. Many attacks on school children have resulted from an intruder somehow gaining access through the main, side or back door. This is one reason why there should be only one main entrance and the main entrance to a facility needs to be separated so that visitors and the reason for their entry to the school verified. Main entrances to most schools typically allow people to turn left, right, go straight or even go upstairs or downstairs. Such free access should only be granted to students and staff from the main entrance after they badge in. A main entrance in a secure facility would require visitors to be in a holding area before being allowed to roam after their identity and purpose for their visit is verified by security. Some schools now have metal detectors that their staff and students are required to pass through before entry. Others have access control badges.   Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

10 Means to help better Secure our Schools – #3 Secure School Perimeter

A basic security and safety strategy is to always ensure a secure perimeter. What does this mean? It implies that any areas adjacent or near the school need to be  fenced and secured. This does not have to be obtrusive. A chain link fence could secure the perimeter around the school and ensure that the school playground is within the perimeter keeping the kids safe within it. Additional technology like cameras would be useful to ensure that the area is monitored. Furthermore, if there is a danger of someone driving a car into the fence and hence into the school, then strategically placed concrete barriers would be a deterrent.  …Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

10 Means to help better Secure our Schools – #2 Control Access at all Points of Entry

Tue Mar 26 16:47:51 EDT 2013

Many schools subscribe to the open door policy. While this is great in a society where children are not kidnapped or sometimes removed from school against their will, this is no longer a practical option. School shootings and violence are now prevalent in many schools all over the world. Schools where shootings are a regular occurrence as sadly they are in the US, access at various entrances should be controlled. Back doors in many schools are now locked and only opened from the inside. This is OK if no plan is afoot to let in an intruder or a shooter, but even this now needs to be controlled with access control technology. In some cases, this requires ID cards or badges and may soon be simplified with more RFID integration with mobile phones which are prevalent in the general population. … Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

10 Means to Help better Secure our Schools – #1 Vigilance

As I look at the data from Slate.com for 2013, I am astounded by how many shootings have occurred since the Newtown  tragedy in the US. There have been 3,027 US deaths since Newtown due to shootings. As a specialist in the area of public safety and security, I thought it best to look at ways for schools to protect themselves. The first one is vigilance. According to a  December 2012 report from the National School Boards Association NSBA.org, every classroom has 1 student with a mental health issue that requires some form of attention or treatment. Without vigilance to the issue of mental health that students face, school shootings are likely to continue. The report has many recommendations to assist schools and is well worth a review.  …Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

10 Enterprise Requirements for Critical & Emergency Alerts: #10 Lockdowns

An area where there is a growing need is lockdowns. Sometimes, a shooter or danger exists in a facility and a lockdown needs to be initiated. It is important to ensure that the lockdown does not place more people in danger but not allowing them to get out of a fire or some other dangerous situation. However, in live shooter incidents, a lockdown can save many lives as long as the shooter is kept out of a full classroom or room full of possible victims. Tracking the shooter moving through the facility and then causing a lockdown that would block them from others would be ideal. This scenario is becoming more real with today’s physical system security systems integrated with event or rules-based logic that would allow an event to trigger a lockdown. …Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

10 Enterprise Requirements for Critical & Emergency Alerts: #9 2-way communication

Another area I have written about in the past is the importance of 2-way communication over SMS, Email, Voice, etc. Sometimes in a critical or emergency situation, an alert recipient is in an area where they cannot get to safety. As such, it is very important to allow them to respond to the alert to get first responders to them. …Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

10 Enterprise Requirements for Critical & Emergency Alerts: #8 Public Display or Ticker Alerting

Often while users are in their own facilities or at public venues such as airports, train stations, hospitals, etc. they can watch TV or read headlines as they wait. This is an ideal place to ensure that recipients in alert situations are informed using proper tickers adhering to security organizational codes and colors. As such, if a situation arises in the public venue, the tickers or displays become another means of safeguarding recipients. …Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

10 Enterprise Requirements for Critical & Emergency Alerts: #7 Alert Authentication

The prevalence of social networking environments like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and others allows users to jump on the network and quickly Tweet a text on a situation. The danger of relying solely on these networks to alert recipients in dangerous situations is that some people on the Internet today like to send out hoax tweets and messages. As such, an organization needs to ensure that any alerts it sends out are authenticated with its recipients and the organization quickly gets on the social media feeds to ensure the correct and proper information is disseminated to avoid mass panic and making situations worse. …Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

10 Enterprise Requirements for Critical & Emergency Alerts: #6 WiFi Integration

For several years now, I have emphasized the importance of WiFi which is fairly ubiquitous in the enterprise and public facilities such as airports, shopping centers, entertainment venues, etc. As users with mobile devices move through the public WiFi areas, it is important to alert them to any emergency situations to reduce the congestion in those areas as well as safeguard their lives. …Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

10 Enterprise Requirements for Critical & Emergency Alerts: #5 VoIP Integration

Many organizations rely on callout capabilities to reach employees and safety and security personnel by phone. An area which must also be integrated is the local voice system which is inevitably a Voice over IP or VoIP system. Some vendors will deliver alerts through paging on the VoIP device as well as a text alert on the display. These alerts will be limited to their equipment. It is important to consider generic delivery to VoIP when choosing a vendor. Amika Mobile has made this a high priority with its various partners. …Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

Heartbreaking Sadness School Shooting in Connecticut

It is with great sadness at Amika Mobile we learned of the school shooting today at Sandy Hook Elementary School where 20 children and 6 adults are dead. This is one of those terrible tragedies that marks us with sadness for all the families and community involved. Our thoughts and hearts are with you. …Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

10 Enterprise Requirements for Critical & Emergency Alerts: #4 As Many Communication Layers As Possible

Any organization will have a number of communications avenues with its users. Some users carry their mobile phone everywhere. Other users typically work at a desk communicating through email or on the web. Others will move around the organization. Some organizations such as those serving the public in healthcare or government will have visitors and waiting rooms. Most of these waiting rooms have some sort of overhead display to keep people occupied while they wait. Many organizations have public announcement systems that they can announce over. The only thing we can predict is that we will not know what end users are typically doing in an emergency or critical situation. This is why it is essential to alert on all layers during critical and emergency events. Systems such as the Amika Mobility Server will support 16 layers including getting out to social networks for organizations to control the messaging about their alerts. ….Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

10 Enterprise Requirements for Critical & Emergency Alerts: #3 Physical System Integration

Any enterprise will have a number of physical system security layers. The most basic of these is typically an alarm system to protect the premises. The alarm may combine door contacts as well as motion sensors that are monitored remotely. Layered on top of this are camera systems that monitor various areas – outside cameras, inside cameras near key entrances and exits. Another layer would be the fire system where smoke or fire trigger alarms. Another layer would be access control systems which require employee cards and facility card readers – most often at the main, side or back entrances. Indeed, in the Hospitality Sector, most guest rooms will have card readers instead of keys these days. A challenge for the enterprise is how to record and manage all these disparate sensor events? It becomes in some ways similar to the monitoring of systems in complex environments like aircrafts. How often do you collect event information? Do you collect continuously or only when critical events are triggered – someone moves in front of the camera at 3 am when the facility is supposed to be vacant? Or someone uses an access card that is on a watch list? Is there shift work with people on premise at odd hours? Are there enterprise risks that need more physical security and alerting – are there panic button requirements? Depending on the business the enterprise is in, careful planning has to go into both the layers of physical security that are required as well as the critical alerts and response that is required when alerts trigger. …Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

Toronto Eaton Center Shooting – Case for Emergency Notification

The Toronto Eaton Center shooting was last Saturday June 2.  Eaton Center is a Toronto landmark attracting millions of visitors annually. Being a Saturday, the Mall which boasts 230 retailers and an underground subway likely had anywhere from 2000 to 4000 people in it. Kudos to Toronto Police for getting everyone out fast and the situation under control within minutes and handling the injured so quickly and ensuring that there was no further loss of life. Malls have not typically considered EMNS but should. There was no Mass Notification Alerting during the mall shooting. A system like the Amika Mobility Server which can broadcast to auto-discovered wired/mobile devices in the mall would have been very useful in getting the word out to mall mobile devices, loudspeakers and overhead displays. It could have also provided quick updates to calm everyone down. Twitter alerts broadcast by Blue Jay player Brett Lawrie have been widely hyped. Twitter is a key alerting medium in social networks but one has to be careful not to rely on it fully for emergencies as information broadcast may or may not be correct as per everything else on the Net. Instead, Twitter should be a layer in the notification toolbox.   …Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

10 Enterprise Requirements for Critical & Emergency Alerts: #2 Any network

An enterprise typically has a myriad of networks including: a LAN for its desktops and servers; a WiFi network for its users to wander the facilities with laptops, ePads and Smartphones that sometimes browse WiFi; its VoIP network that is linked to some carrier network for inbound/outbound calling; a Public Address (PA) System for announcements; a Paging network; an email system; social networks like Twitter, FaceBook and LinkedIn; camera monitoring networks; access control systems; fire monitoring systems; etc. It is thus no surprise that an organizational critical and emergency system cannot assume that all users can only be reached through SMS, email or Voice. As such, in an emergency First Responders agree that the enterprise needs to leverage all its networks to deliver critical and emergency alerts to targeted groups or en masse paying special attention to all the personal mobile devices people are bringing in. …Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

10 Enterprise Requirements for Critical & Emergency Alerts: #1 Any Device

As more and more enterprise users bring their own devices to work –  BYOD – as it is commonly referred to has to be part of the set of devices that Critical & Emergency Notification Systems Alert to. At any one time, a user in the enterprise can be addressed by anywhere from 3 to 6 devices – desktop, desk phone, business mobile phone as well as digital tablet, laptop and possibly a second personal mobile phone. As such, the emergency alerting system needs to address all these user identities. Typically, the mobile devices are addressed by hard-coding email addresses and phone numbers in contacts databases. This is certainly not good enough as users cannot be tethered to their desks and the device they have currently active as the personal one, may be the only one they are carrying around. This is why auto-discovery of user devices is essential for a practical emergency alerting system. …Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

Critical and Emergency Alerting’s Increasing Requirement at the Enterprise

At the most recent ASIS 2011 in Orlando, Florida a discernable shift in the market continued to occur. At ASIS 2009, many of the enquiries for critical alerting came from University and College requirements to adhere to the Clery and Higher Education Acts to ensure the safety of students on campus post Virginia Tech. At ASIS 2010, a shift in the market started with requests from other sectors such as healthcare, finance and government. This shift continued this year with three times the number of organizations approaching Amika Mobile from all sectors. Why is this requirement occurring? A number of reasons come to mind – employers have to comply with laws and want to ensure that their employees are safe from  workplace violence. External threats from disgruntled individuals tend to increase in difficult times. Finally, the global unrest and threats continue to drive transportation security laws and decision makers to capabilities to ensure the safety of individuals in their facilities be they public places like airports and sports arenas or private facilities where watch lists are kept to ensure individuals that should not get access, are kept out. …Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

School Explosion and PA Warning System Failure

Very sad story broadcast in the news today. Eric Leighton, an 18 yr old student from a local Ottawa High School died after an explosion in shop class. Four others including the teacher were injured as the students were making BBQs and the canister exploded as the student was welding. It seems the canisters had highly combustible peppermint oil in them previously. To compound this, the school’s warning PA system failed. Today, students, teachers and school staff are walking around with mobile devices. All classrooms have telephones. All schools also have LANs with classroom computers. Any number of systems and technologies would have helped the 1600 people in the school get informed as they proceeded to safety. Instead staff had to run between classrooms and get an evacuation going. Clearly, our schools need to adopt new technologies to keep up with their students as they stay informed about everything. …Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

Emergency Alerting for Public Safety – Top 10 needs – # 10 – Simultaneous Broadcasts

It is impossible to predict where an end user will be when there is an emergency. They may be at an airport waiting for a flight, they may be visiting someone at their offices, they may be visiting a colleague at a University, they may be speaking on the telephone, they may be waiting for care at an emergency center in a hospital, etc. As such, it is impractical to rely that an emergency alerting system would always have the correct contact information whether it is an email address or phone number. This is why it is essential for alerting systems to include the auto-discovery of devices in the vicinity as part of the solution. As such, any discovered device on the network such as a Smartphone, laptop, iPad, iPod Touch, Playbook, Public Speaker or TV monitor must be alerted. People move around and the technology must be evolved to adapt to their habits. Furthermore, a person will have many devices that can be contacted and the safest way to ensure that they get the message is not to assume one over the other but broadcast simultaneously to all. …Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

 

Emergency Alerting for Public Safety – Top 10 needs – # 9 – First Responders Coordination

Utilities, Shopping Centers, Airports, Colleges and Universities typically have their own security. In addition to this, it is important to coordinate with local police, fire and EMS services. Again, in disparate systems such as those used on Sept 11 in 2001, emergency communication interoperability was found to be a huge problem. For this reason thousands lost their lives including entire fire, EMS and police detachments. Today’s technologies make it much easier to communicate in emergencies over a number of layers including WiFi, SMS, Twitter, Facebook, Email, Paging Systems, Public Speakers, etc. Coordination with First Responders is key and will result in saving lives both at the facility where the emergency occurred, the nearby community as well as with First Responders.  …Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

Emergency Alerting for Public Safety – Top 10 needs – # 8 – Reaching Community

Often a community is formed around a power, water or nuclear utility or around a college or university campus, shopping center, etc. When an emergency occurs, it is very important to alert and inform individuals within a geographic area. This can be achieved through Community Portals where end users sign-up to receive alerts or it could be achieved through technologies where alerts are sent to a set of devices within a particular geography once an auto-discovery of those devices is achieved over Internet or WiFi networks. …Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

Emergency Alerting for Public Safety – Top 10 needs – # 7 – Reaching Mobile Users

Mon Jan 17 14:05:59 EST 2011

Mobility continues to grow exponentially. Indeed, the latest numbers show that more laptops than desktops are sold. Also 4 Billion people now have mobile phones. That is two thirds of the world’s population! As such, emergency management and alerting cannot ignore mobile users. Systems must have the capability to pop up alerts on laptops and reach out through WiFi or cellular networks to the mobile phone users. …Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

 

Emergency Alerting for Public Safety – Top 10 needs – # 6 – Transient Users

Many users are walking around with mobile devices today – the latest figures show that 4.1 Billion people have mobile phones. Couple that with the fact that more laptops than desktops are sold now with the 2009 figures showing over 177M sold, it is clear that the world is more mobile than ever. This means that people are often engrossed while they are moving about on their mobile devices. This is why emergency notification systems cannot ignore WiFi as a student in residence on a campus in the basement is more likely to get a WiFi alert than an SMS alert. …Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

Emergency Alerting for Public Safety – Top 10 needs – # 5 – Pop-up Alerts

Very often one is working on a desktop or a laptop on 4 or 5 applications with several documents open. Most studies have shown that people ignore fire alarms and loud speakers especially as they are listening to music and busy working. A very effective means is to interrupt the users on the desktop, laptop or SmartPhone with a Pop-up alert with the notification of the emergency as well as the graphics associated with that. Most Pop-ups do not allow the user to continue until the emergency is cleared. Even if the user gets very annoyed, they are likely to at least put their head up from the cubicle and ask what is going on! …Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

Emergency Alerting for Public Safety – Top 10 needs – #4 – finding people

In an emergency situation, it is essential to account for everyone on the premises. This is straightforward in a situation where there is strong access control and the facility is not an open campus, hospital, sporting arena, airport, etc. However, in public venues a combination of location-based information and 2-way situational awareness is essential. People can be located through devices on WiFi or carrier networks through reverse 911 and they can be targeted with very specific messages that can request a response if they are conscious. …Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

Emergency Alerting for Public Safety – Top 10 needs – #3 – situational awareness

Very often in an emergency where a full evacuation of a building or campus is required by First Responders, there is a requirement to ensure that everyone is out and safe. What happens if someone is in a basement in a campus with 20 or 30 buildings that need evacuation? This person needs to be alerted in an emergency. Loudspeakers may reach them – however, they more than likely have nice headphones blasting great music in their ears. In the event that they get a Pop-up alert on their desktop or SmartPhone – they may realize there is indeed an emergency. What if they cannot get out? They need to provide a response to an alert. In the Industry, this is known as a 2-way communication which provides situational awareness – where they get an alert and they respond to it. It could be an SMS alert – so they need 2-way SMS. It could be email, it could be a desktop or laptop Pop-up – regardless, they need to let the First Responders know they are trapped. …Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

Emergency Alerting for Public Safety – Top 10 needs – #2 – mobile users

A key priority for public safety is how to deal with all the transient users on mobile devices whose contact information is not known a priori. At an airport where thousands arrive and fly out, at a sporting event where tens of thousands watch the game, at a campus where people visit on laptops and mobile phones, at a hospital where people come and go, at a shopping center where people pass through, etc. etc. One of the key areas mass notification solutions have ignored is WiFi. Users carry devices enabled by WiFi and somehow all emergency alerts need to reach them without delivering spam. A challenge indeed – but doable as demonstrated by the Amika Mobile platform.  …Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

Emergency Alerting for Public Safety – Top 10 needs – #1 – getting contact info

Last year I wrote several posts about Emergency Mass Notification and what to look for. There are 2 clear approaches to this problem, the herd seems to gravitate towards the solution where users identify themselves for emergency alerts in a database. DHS has already shown that Opt-In alerting where users sign up only nets about 2% of those who need to be alerted. So, how will we alert the 30,000 or so students on campus of an emergency if only 600 of them sign up? How do we keep those database records up to date? And how do we alert the other 29,400 people? This is where we clearly need to move away from the herd providing these solutions and use intelligent means to auto-discover the population that needs to be alerted and what devices they need to be alerted on. ….Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

Can Twitter help with Emergency Alerting?

Twitter is the latest social media phenom that allows  users to broadcast messages en masse to mobile phones through SMS. Can it be relied on for emergency alerting. Recall that the channel for the alerts is still SMS and carriers do not provide channel or timestamp guarantees to be received for SMS. As such, a tweet can  be received like an SMS up to days later depending on the carrier prioritization. As such, those implementing emergency alerting need to be careful that they provide as many alerting channels as they can – WiFi, SMS, Email, Web, Twitter, FaceBook, Voice, etc. This is especially important on college and university campuses where users are on any or many of these channels at once!  …Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

10 Point Check List for Emergency Alerting and Advisories

Emergency Alerting and Citizen Advisories continue to be very important in today’s world of live shooters, natural disasters like hurricanes as well as unusual occurrences like outbreaks of viruses that quickly get labeled as pandemics. Here is a 10 point checklist to consider when evaluating such solutions:

1. How fast can an alert be sent and received at full load? Often, delays in sending out and receiving alerts put lives at risk. In December a live shooter was at Virginia tech again and their SMS solution was used to send out the emergency alerts. SMS alerts were still being received 6 days later. The alerts went out instantly but were not received.

2.  Who can send the alert? Emergency alerting and advisories are typically sent by the persons with the authority to do so. It is essential to have more than 1 person authorized to do so in case the individual who should send the alert cannot.

3.  Can an alert be sent remotely? An emergency in a building or at a facility may force individuals who are required to send the alerts to activate them remotely. Does the solution in question support this?

4. Can system notify masses quickly? An emergency alerting system may reach some of the population as registered in a database but not all. It is essential to ensure that multiple pathways can reach individuals in an emergency. This is why solution that provide broadcast alerts without user addressing information are better at reaching the masses.

5. Can several alerting pathways be used? Some solutions support 1 or 2 methods such as SMS or email for example. It is essential to pick a solution that can support multiple pathways such as WiFi broadcasts, SMS, Email or Voice.

6. Does system require /support self-registration? Can it broadcast? Most solutions require users to be registered in a database. Very often users do not want to self-register and some system support LDAP integration for getting user names, email addresses and phone numbers. Rare systems support broadcasts over WiFi hotspots and avoid self registration altogether.

7. Is system redundant and fault tolerant? What occurs when the power fails? Does the system continue working or fail? If an unexpected event occurs with system software, does the solution fail?

8. Can system target sub-groups: geographic, zip code, building?Many systems alert or broadcast to entire lists without supporting sub-groups or partial lists. This is important when 1 out of 30 buildings on a campus is affected or 1 floor out of a tower has to be evacuated quickly.

9. Can system support 2-way so that people can be tracked? In a live shooter situation, it is very important to get as much tactical information for the first responders as possible. Rare systems support 2-way communication or a back channel to command central that provides valuable information about the movement of individuals in an emergency.

10.  Can system be hacked? Is it secure and supports authentication? Authentication and secure access for sending out alerts is also a key feature for solutions that alert. Spammers and hackers would love to get access to these solutions. ….Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile

5 Best Practices in Emergency Alerting at Universities/Colleges

It seems that campus shootings and emergencies continue to occur. The US govt has mandated that all educational institutions including schools, colleges and universities put in place emergency notification procedures to avoid such tragedies as Virginia Tech, and Illinois. In the case of Virginia Tech, an email was sent immediately after the first shooting in the dorm and that email took 2 hours to reach its intended recipients – within those 2 hours, another 31 students were killed. Here are 5 rules of thumb to consider as you are implementing a mass emergency notification plan for your campus:

#1 Have an Emergency Plan & Team – Every campus should have a multi-disciplinary team responsible for the first notifications to the campus population and reaching first responders (police, EMS, fire, etc.). This team must put together a plan for emergencies such as fire in a lab or to deal with a hostile shooter or other threat. This plan must be reviewed and owned by the administration of the academic institution (be it Principal, President, etc.), the students, the faculty and operations personnel.

#2 Leverage Existing Infrastructure at the College / University – WiFi / Email / Voice – Campuses have WiFi networks, Email and Voice networks. These can be leveraged to deliver emergency alerts to the campus population in the first few minutes of an emergency. These will likely save people’s lives.

#3 Have multiple Emergency Alerting Pathways – WiFi / Email / SMS/ Voice – As per practice #2 – campuses spend millions of dollars on infrastructure. Many vendors will work with existing networks and all possible alerting pathways should be leveraged. Indeed Virginia Tech now has 4 methods of alerting including SMS, Email, Voice, Loud Speaker and Whiteboard monitors.

#4 Run through Emergency Exercises to Ensure Campus Population is Aware of Plan – It is difficult to have a plan that unpracticed. In an effort to avoid disruption to student and faculty, many campuses do not run drills. This is a mistake as practice makes perfect. Every term should include a drill of the emergency notification system of the campus.

#5 Review Emergency Plan with local Emergency Forces – Police / EMS / Fire – Finally, the first responders in an emergency will be police, EMS and fire personnel. It is important that they be aware of the campus plan in case of an emergency and any vital early information that they may need to mitigate the risk to students and faculty be collected through the emergency team.

… Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile.

Emergency Alerting for Hotspots over WiFi

Sun Nov 23 16:56:40 EST 2008

Many school districts are asking for emergency alerting solutions to mobile phones and traditional phones. One area they seem to be completely ignoring is alerting over WiFi. What if the student or faculty member is in the basement of a school or College on headphones and on an Internet laptop when an emergency alert comes in? This is why alerting at HotSpots or over the WiFi is so critical as well. This is why Amika Mobile was chosen for a Mobile Village Award since we are the first to have achieved something that helps our community. …Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile